Big Board's Picks: Relief Pitcher

This week at Harper Wallbanger, I'm sorting through the Big Board for 12-team 5x5 leagues to find the must-draft and must-avoid players at each position. It's the position I love, and everybody else hates, relievers!


The story is more or less the same every year. Relievers are volatile, and in certain league formats, vital to your success due to their elite ERA/WHIP numbers. I like the old addage that you should 'draft skills', and so I always focus on drafting relievers I believe will be good, regardless of role. At the high end, I want one of the top guys like Jansen, Britton, Chapman, or any of the next 3 or so. After that, I'm out. The mid-range is generally a terrible investment if your league only counts Saves. So today, I'm identifying a number of guys that fit into the mold of what I'm usually looking for: good skills, possibility of future saves, and cheap.

TARGET: Cam Bedrosian
60 IP, 4 W, 69 SO, 3.10 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 24 SV

Bedrosian wrapped up his very impressive '16 season (22.8% K-BB%, 1.12 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 40 innings) by getting injured, and so he's managed to stay off the 'breakout closer' radar heading into '17. Huston Street is still around, but I'm not too worried about that, especially considering he's already injured. I think Bedrosian takes this role and runs with it, and the 24 SVs I'm projecting are probably conservative. 

When to target: Round 15

Risk profile: Medium.

TARGET: Sean Doolittle
60 IP, 3 W, 70 SO, 2.90 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11 SV

I still haven't quite Sean Doolittle ever since his '14 season: 34.3% K-BB%, 10.4% popups. He was getting automatic outs in almost half of his batters faced, making him one of the best relievers in baseball. Since then, injuries have derailed him here and there, and the A's keep bringing in worse relievers to close games out in front of him. This year, I don't think Madson holds him off all year, and he'll spend at least half the year closing games. Even when he's not closing, he'll be locking games down with good ratios and K's.

When to target: Last round.

Risk profile: Low. Dump him if he's not good.

TARGET: Carter Capps
55 IP, 2 W, 76 SO, 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 12 SV

Capps is a similar story to Doolittle, except his competition is a little more stiff with a San Diego bullpen full of intriguing guys. That said, Capps' willingness to cheat by jumping several feet forward during his windup led him to insane numbers in '15, when he generated >25% SwStr% and almost 2 K's per inning. I cannot pass up the chance to have that on my squad again this year. His stupid windup jump means that he'll also *always* be an injury risk, but it sounds like he's fully recovered from TJ and just needs a bit more time to get fully up to speed before returning to MLB action.

When to target: Second-to-last round (pick him before that other smart guy in your league). Or third-to-last, if he's trying to get Capps before you.

Risk profile: Low. Dump him if he's not good.

DEEP TARGET: Daniel Hudson
65 IP, 3 W, 62 SO, 3.74 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 15 SV

Earlier this spring there were murmurs that Tony Watson might be on fragile ground after several rough outings. The team has downplayed it, but once those murmurs start, they don't fully go away, and he already has the deck stacked against him as a left-handed closer. Enter Daniel Hudson, who has already been announced as the 'fill in guy' for days when Watson can't close. While the K-BB numbers aren't flashy, this is another guy that gets a ton of popups for automatic outs, and he also seems very undervalued after running into some bad LOB% luck last year. He's a solid last-round pick.

Risk profile: Low. Dump him if he's not good.

AVOID: Jeurys Familia
40 IP, 2 W, 42 SO, 3.02 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 20 SV

After MLB announced his suspension will be just 15 games, I likely need to increase the innings projection, but I'm not sure I'll pump up the SV total. This is more a bet on Addison Reed than it is against Familia, as I really like Reed after he put up a very impressive '16 season. Familia has been a great closer despite sort of 'meh' K-BB numbers, and I think a few weeks of Reed dominating early this year could be enough to loosen Familia's grip on the role. Maybe he gets it back for a while, but any signs of trouble and it'll be much easier to turn the role over to Reed.

AVOID: Mark Melancon
56 IP, 3 W, 52 SO, 2.77 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 33 SV

I'm probably the anti-Melancon guy every year, as the projections have just never loved the guy. Maybe there's a lesson there. Melancon succeeds by suppressing homers, and seems to have proven he has a bit of skill there, and I'm totally willing to buy him as one of the good mid-range closers. The problem is that he goes in the same range as the elite guys, and just doesn't put up enough K's to justify elevating him to that level. I'll take a pass on him once again this year.